Our first child arrived when we were 19. The youngest arrived the day after I turned 25. For more than 26 years my life's biggest purpose was my children's lives. I took parenting classes at my local library. No, I'm not ashamed of this one bit. Who doesn't want to be a better parent. I had no idea what I was doing when they began to arrive. I had play dates for them and went to parenting groups in the church basement where the kids could socialize. And, so I could meet other moms. There were library story times, kids classes at the local nature center, etc. By age 4, they were all in sports. There was also dance, piano, gymnastics, golf, swim lessons, and probably many other activities I just can't think of at this moment, as they grew older. In other words, I kept them busy!
I volunteered in their schools from day one. Class mom, booster-club parent, office volunteer, reading volunteer, anything to be close to them. If my kids had to be around others, I wanted to get to know those people. And, I wanted them to know me. I was their girl scout leader and president of the PTA, on the board of local school-related groups and for town sports. Until they were all well into their teens, I coached every chance I had - boy and girls. Along the way, they began to volunteers themselves and they became social. Their time become their own.
They all became athletes and up until the day they graduated high school we were busy all four seasons with field hockey, baseball, soccer, softball, and tennis. We traveled all over for tournaments as they grew older and their teams became more competitive. I was blessed they were good students who rarely missed a day of school. After high school, there was still some in sports. And, I loved every single minute they kept me busy!
Not Perfect By Any Means
For extra money, I would take jobs during the day so they would never need a sitter - interim teaching jobs, substitute teaching, photography gigs, home-based sales. For a few years, when they were very young, I worked over-night cleaning restaurants. Later, I would work 3rd shift again. And, as when they were young, I would nap when I could because everyday there was a practice or a game or multiple practices and games to attend.
My college experience consisted of graduating with my BA by taking night classes in Boston 2/3 nights a week. I started my MA, but had to finish it online as there was never enough time to go to school.
I made many mistakes made along the way. And, I think about them often. Also, I consider actions I've made. Should I have finished college right away? Should I have forged a lasting career? Maybe I did not teach them enough of what I wanted them to learn. Should I have given them more independence? Should I have protected them more? Less? In parenting classes I learned how to mother a child. I learned how to parent a you adult on the fly. What moves made the grade? Which moves failed? Second-guessing our parenting skills is as old as parenting itself - to no avail. I did the best I could, honestly. Yet, it will never feel enough. What parent does?
Funny part is - I never wanted kids. I planned to go to college, move away, and do exciting things. Then, we had our first daughter and everything changed. Motherhood was exciting. It is the job I never wanted and the most rewarding one I'll ever experience. It has been my greatest adventure!
My kids wanted a babysitter - all their friends had them! One day I decided to give it a try it a try. I let the daughter of our school nurse watch them. The kids were so excited. She arrived. I left. But, I had nowhere to go! I finally ended up at the mall. Hadn't I always wanted to shop in peace? I thought I did. As it turns out, I was going crazy! And, no offense to that lovely girl - my kids instantly adored her. Shortly after arriving at the mall, I headed home. The kids were so mad I was back so soon! That was was our one and only time with a sitter.
They Grew So Fast
A few months before my youngest were to leave for college I had my first grandchild, seven days later my second one arrived! I honestly cannot describe how wonderful it felt to have these two new babies in my life. They took away some of the sting of my baby leaving me. But, just some. One day he was holding onto me with tiny soft hands and then I blinked. Like Keyser Soze, pfff -he was gone.
I was my grandchildren's '"babysitter" when my daughters went back to work. For two and a half years I had them to myself 4 to 5 days a week, sometimes more with my grandson as he and his mother lived with us. As when my kids were little, I worked 3rd shift. So, I napped when I could and I loved every minute of it! I was exhausted, but I was happy.
Then, everything changed again. I was suddenly miserable. The grandchildren needed to be socialized more and were placed in a daycare. It was a wonderful place. My oldest daughter began teaching there so she could be near her daughter - the cycle continued! On top of that, my other daughter decided it was time to move out! I was happy for them all, but suddenly I was lost. Granted, I was allowed to sleep more, which I desperately needed, but for more than a quarter of a century my live revolved around my kids and then their kids, and then suddenly it all stopped.
Dr. Suess Sucks!
JK. My children grew up loving his books. But, have you ever heard the quote by Dr. Suess; "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened?" Well, that's crap - for the most part anyway!
My youngest still came home from college, sometimes. His summers were spent living away doing internships and his other free time had to be split between work, family, and friends. My baby didn't really need me any more. This was a crushing blow. The memory of my realization of this fact brings tears to my eyes as I'm writing this.
To add a final blow, my husband was suddenly gone too. I worked more, spent endless days in bed, and cried for the days past. I felt empty. Depression set in. I was alone, in effect, for the first time in my life. As often as I could, I saw my children and grandchildren . It was never enough. I had no idea what to do with myself.
Its A Brave New World
This is when I began to venture in the world again. Not as a mother, or a wife, or a grandmother - just me. Slowly at first. As time went on and the loneliness seeped in more and more, I began to get out more and more. If I had my way my kids would all live close by and I would see my grandchildren everyday. Life isn't always they we would like it to be, right? Another realization I had to face.
I finally quit my job, packed my Jeep, and left. It was easier than I thought and harder than I ever thought possible. Travel has been a life-saver for me. My many siblings, spread across county, and I have been able to spent more time together since we were just children ourselves. They are very special people. And, they married special people. I'm lucky to have them and to get this time with them. New people I never would have know otherwise have entered my life. That, has eased my loneliness as well. I have learned, with time, to be alone too.
I could not live in an empty nest. Every single day I miss my kids. But, they are adults with their own lives. Somehow, I don't quite fit in as I once did. My grandchildren I miss even more. Maybe life is meant to be this way.
So, I wander.